restorative justice and alternative spaces

i met Andreas yesterday who’s visiting from Denmark, researching alt worship / emerging church. We had such a good conversation – well, i don’t know if it was really helpful to him, but it helped a stack of different threads come together in my head.

Andreas is involved in quite an amazing community in the Lutheran church in Denmark. they organise alt worship at night time in a central cathedral in denmark. i love the idea of that… wish our churches were places that people felt they could go into.

I came back from that conversation and went straight into a scoping meeting for the restorative justice project [after, literally, bumping into matt damon and his entourage in the laneway across from the office – surreal]. i’ll outline the restorative justice project in the next post, but it will probably become about half of my workload over the next 12 months – and along with the alternative space in the city will shape pretty much the entirety of this project. in some ways it feels really discordant to hold both of those things together – thinking about sacred spaces in what’s probably one of the most sparkly clean designer communities in the centre of melbourne [on the surface, anyway]… and alongside that focussing on the restoration of people incarcerated in the prison system. In talking with andreas, i realised how closely they are linked.

the worship i’m involved with in prisons has become the question to which the rest of the alt worship project has to answer. If the alternative city space doesn’t hold water when it’s held up against the restoration and redemption of people who are most removed from our society, then we can’t do it. And i’m not talking at all about challenging those who visit the docklands space to go out and do good works [something we do over and over in the church – exhorting people to be the good Samaritan which is such a gross distortion of that bible passage]. everything in the space must be about an alternative vision of society – it has to be built into the fabric of the space, painted onto the walls, people need to breathe it in the air from the moment they walk in. it’s not an optional extra, a program for wednesdays at 8. it’s the sole purpose of the space.

whenever i’m asked to offer a biblical mandate for this project, i keep coming back to luke 4:16ff – to the words that are echoed throughout the bible, and which are offered as the starting point for Jesus’ public life – it’s no less than radical ecclesiological, social and political revolution. and our work as people of faith is to make the places where that can happen; to subvert the structures, to speak prophetically to the systems, to model a different life. that has to be the starting point of every act of worship, every constructed sacred space, and every part of community. it’s the ‘why’ behind everything we do. it’s the measuring stick, the question mark.

[and the other passage i talk about, of course, is from Amos, who, in his full glory, sits on my right shoulder…
‘i the Lord hate and despise your religious celebrations and your times of worship…’]

oh… and we’ve got enthusiastic buy-in from some key players in the film making idea – all we need now is some money [which is, in the scheme of things, the easy bit]. after a few weeks of really hard slog in virtually every part of this project, it feels like we’re finding some momentum. for one silly moment yesterday it occurred to me that going to the uk in 10 days time was a distraction from what i could be doing here. but i got over that pretty quick.


  1. Just so thankful for the fact that you put things like this out here… for all of us to read… and hopefully germinate something on the other side of the world.

  2. In the midst of an amazing post, and whilst I ponder the depths of its impact upon me (seriously), I feel I should comment on a really shallow level in regards to the celebrity encounter – we sat next to Diver Dan at at restaurant the other night, in the chair next to Claire, and se didn’t even notice. I pointed it out after we’d left. Tee hee.

  3. Cheryl

    diver dan… that so beats matt damon, hands down…

    wilsonian… knowing people get it, over the other side of the world, is pretty powerful inspiration. thanks.

  4. bec

    one of the things I so miss about my mob “back home” is that in contrast to a lot of communities of faith, we weren’t bound by socio-economic background, or educational background, or the suburb we lived in, etc etc…we weren’t even bound by shared theology, ideology or politics most of the time. We were bound only by out mutual interest in trying to follow Christ in the world, and doing that together (as best we could). So…that’s a long way of saying I love your vision for a community that can “model a different life”.

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